J.C. La Verde, who goes by J.C. Defeats, of Oldsmar, Florida, is one of the survivors. On Aug. 3, he was swimming in Lake Thonotosassa in Hillsborough County while shooting an instructional video for his company, Defeat X, when a gator began approaching head-on.
“I felt the equivalent of a telephone pole hit my face and then because of my stroke, I felt the scales, then I felt the teeth, so I knew what I was in,” he said.
Defeats was inside the mouth of a 12-foot gator for several seconds. The force of the gator’s mouth crushed part of his skull and broke his jaw.
“It was just one large bite,” he said. “I heard my jaw snap, and I just continued swimming.”
By some miracle, the gator released Defeats, who swam to a nearby dock.
He spent 10 days in the hospital after undergoing a six-hour surgery. He has multiple bone fractures in his jaw, underwent a craniectomy and doctors removed part of his right temporal lobe.
“The story is about a miracle and also a call to action,” he said. “Find the joy, however that looks like to you, that’s my challenge to you. Find it.”
Defeats, who served in the U.S. Air Force for six years, has been with the Oldsmar Fire Department for the past four years. And the gator attack isn’t stopping him in his mission to serve the community.
“He’s always thinking of others even though the unthinkable was happening to him,” said his wife, Christine La Verde, who has been by his side through this journey.
Defeats is expected to undergo more surgeries as he continues his recovery.